Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Author Interview: Denise Swanson

It is with great pleasure that Socrates’ Book Review Blog welcomes author Denise Swanson for a visit. Denise is the author of the cozy series ‘Scumble River Mysteries’ and a brand new cozy series ‘A Devereaux’s Dime Store Mysteries’. For years I’ve been a huge fan of the Scumble River books and I was both surprised and delighted to see she began a new series. When asked if I’d like to review the first book, Little Shop of Homicide, I jumped at the chance. I’m so happy that Denise agreed to do this interview. Welcome, Denise!

Let the interview begin….

1) You were a school psychologist for a long time, what made you decide to write cozy mysteries?

I always liked to write. I wrote my first book in kindergarten and tried again in junior high, but back when I was growing up, no one talked about writing as a career. However, as I neared forty, I began to realize I hadn’t done what I wanted in my life. It took me a while to figure out that what I really wanted to do was write a novel. I looked at my bookshelves and decided to write the kind of books I liked to read—character driven with a little humor and a little romance.

2) Can you describe the process from the time you “get the call” that you will be published to the book appearing on the bookstore shelves?

After I dropped the receiver and accidently hung up on my agent, I almost don’t remember the rest. I recall not believing it was real until I held the actual contract in my hand. I got the call in March of 1999 and Murder of a Small-Town Honey came out in July of 2000. There were several revision requests from my editor—including writing a whole new first chapter—then the copy edit and the finally galley pass through. There was the quest for the perfect title—my original title was The Chokeberry Days Murder. Next up was the cover, which I loved, and finally getting the whole promotional machine started.

3) Do you have any say in the title or covers of your books? Is the decision-making process different from when you were a new author to now – a well-established author?

Most of the titles I’ve suggested are accepted by my editor and the rest of the NAL publishing team. Occasionally, they don’t think whatever I’ve called the book will attract readers and we go back and forth until we’re all happy. For my new series, I originally called it Sex and the Single Dead Girl, but the powers that be thought it sounded too much like a vampire book. My editor came up with Little Shop of Homicide, which I love!

The covers are a different story. I do see the cover sketches and can request small changes, but contractually, NAL has the final say.

4) Where did you get the idea for your new series?

The ideas for Little Shop of Homicide came from various sources. The setting was inspired by my love of the old dime store in my hometown. The idea of Devereaux’s previous profession came from the whole Bernie Madoff scandal. And the rest just sort of blossomed from various “what ifs.”

5) Do you outline the direction you’d like your books to go or do you just go with the moment?

When I started writing, and up until about my seventh or eighth book, I outlined using a sort of spider web approach—starting with the crime and going outward. But now I pretty much just sit down in front of the computer every morning and ask myself, “What comes next?”

6) How long does it take for you to write a book?

The first draft takes 3-4 months, then an additional 2-3 months for the second draft and final polish. After I get the revision letter from my editor, I usually have another 4-6 weeks of work.

7) Do you have any idea how many books will be in each of your series?

I really don’t. Sadly, often writers have little choice about ending a series. They can choose to end it, but they don’t always get to continue one they want to. That depends on sales (especially the first week a book is out). The publisher will only continue a series if it does well (better than the last book).

8) What do you think of the new “online” craze of “meeting” your fans and getting feedback to your work almost instantly? I’ve always loved meeting readers. I did over seventy appearances for my first book. I love the opportunity to interact with readers online. On my Facebook author page, I often ask their opinions and many have helped when I have research questions.

9) Do you have any opinions on the sudden explosion of ebooks and ereaders?

I’m such a novice about e-books, I still haven’t formed much of an opinion. NAL only recently acquired the e-rights to the Scumble River books and still haven’t gotten the entire series converted. And I got my first e-reader for Christmas—mostly to read friends of mine who had decided to publish books only electronically.

10) Can you give us any clues or hints to upcoming books?

Murder of the Cat’s Meow, Scumble River #15 is due out in September and the next dime store book is due out March 2013.

11) Are you planning any book signings in the near future?

I’ll be doing several signings for the release of Little Shop of Homicide. The first is at Aunt Agatha’s in Ann Arbor, MI Sunday, March 4, then one at the Coal City Library in IL Saturday, March 10 and the Barnes and Noble in Bolingbrook, IL Sunday, March 11. The details can be found on my website www.DeniseSwanson.com

Thank you so much, Denise, for taking the time from your busy schedule to join us!

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